If you are itching to get your hands dirty but have few gardening supplies on hand and hesitate to head to the store, take a look around the house and yard. You may find many items that can be re-purposed into just what you need. Here are some cheap tips and tricks for house-bound gardeners!
- Collect plastic and waxed containers to start seeds in. Mushroom boxes, clear salad clamshells, milk and juice cartons work just fine. Be sure to poke some drainage holes in the bottom before adding your soil. Egg cartons can be used for a while but they are small so be ready to move seedling to larger containers when they need more room.
- Plastic clamshells that greens come in make great community pots for starting seeds. Just be sure if you are starting more than one kind of plant that they all have the same requirements for heat and light and take about the same amount of time to germinate.
- If seeds are tiny, use an old spray bottle to gently mist the soil to prevent dislodging them. I love old condiment squirt bottles because they allow me to direct water right to the base of newly emerged seedlings.
- When your seedlings have 2 to 4 true leaves and are large enough to handle, pot them up in larger pots. Yogurt containers, plastic cups, and even toilet paper rolls cut in half can be used as individual plant pots.
- Clear plastic totes make awesome little greenhouses and large ones of any color can be turned into planters. Just be sure to poke holes in the bottom for drainage.
- For a larger greenhouse, stick hoops made from PVC pipe or heavy-duty wire into the ground and cover with clear plastic. The wire frames from old campaign signs are perfect for making little greenhouses or for supporting reemay covering in your garden. Any political signs still left from the primaries are fair game!
- Cardboard tubes make good cutworm collars or you can just wrap the stems of your transplants with foil. I dare a cutworm to chew through that!
- Pallets are quite versatile and can be used to create vertical gardens, compost bins, and fences. See this vegetable garden made with pallets and old shingles!
Once the plants take off you can hardly see the pallet!
- If you have run out of containers but have bags of soil, just lay them flat in your sunniest spot, poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage, cut slits in the top and plant directly in the bag.
- Make a cold frame from bales of hay or straw covered with an old storm window.
- Compost is the best soil amendment and you can make it yourself. Start a compost pile today.
- Ashes from a wood fire can be used in place of lime to raise the pH of your soil. See how to use wood ashes in your garden.
- Grass clippings and shredded leaves make excellent mulch for your garden beds. See this Mulching Guide.
- Collect water in a rain barrel to offset water costs. We made one years ago from a plastic trash barrel. Adding a spigot to the bottom made it easy to attach a hose.
- Plan ahead for next season’s garden by growing open pollinated plants and saving some seeds from the best ones to grow next year. Beans, peas, cukes, squash, dill, peppers, and tomato seeds are easy to save. We find that they germinate better than our store-bought ones.
Buying Garden Supplies
In most states, nurseries and greenhouses are considered essential businesses and are open. Go during off peak times to keep a safe distance from other shoppers.
Usually, the garden lots are fairly empty. If you call in your order, they’ll load everything into your trunk with no face-to-face interaction.
Many garden centers and greenhouses will also hold your plants until you are ready to pick them up at planting time.
There are also many garden nurseries which have online web sites. Here’s a list of garden seed suppliers.
If you are buying plants in advance of when you would plant, simply unpack them and let them unfurl from the packaging. Look to see if there are any discolored leaves (usually nearest the soil at the base of the plant) and cut those off gently. Then water them and leave them alone on a windowsill to get acclimatized.
Anyone buying plants this far ahead of the season has to be prepared to repot them into bigger containers and provide proper lighting (on a windowsill or with grow lights) and the plants should be quite happy until they can then be planted properly either outside or in a greenhouse. If you’re not prepared to repot, do not buy or the plants will suffer and it’s not worthwhile.
Don’t get discouraged. Get creative. And when it comes to re-purposing supplies, remember: One man’s trash is another man’s trellis! See more upcycled gardening ideas!